The 'hijacking' of Bhubaneswar-New Delhi Rajdhani Express may have been an isolated case, but it has done enough to send the alarm bells ringing in the topmost echelons in the Bihar Police headquarters. The incident is a pointer to the growing strength and changing strategy of the naxalaites and areas, where the police need to rework its strategy.
In Bihar, 16 of the 38 districts have been declared worst naxal-hit, though the extremists have their presence in nearly 30 districts. What is more worrying for the state is its long and porous international border with Maoist-dominated Nepal and its sour relations with Chinese counterparts. The state also shares its borders with naxal-hit states like Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal with Chhatisgarh not far away.
"We are alert and have decided to step up operations against extremists. We have also brought about some changes in our strategy to deal with the ultras, who, of late, have stepped up their activities to make their presence felt in some pockets," additional director general (headquarters) Neelmani said, adding that a joint operational strategy with other naxal-hit states could not be ruled out.
Though the state has so far not witnessed any incident of train hijacking in recent years, two passenger trains were forcibly detained by armed guerillas of the CPI (Maoist) in Garhwa forests in Jharkhand in 2008. The passengers had to wait for hours in trains, which were allowed to proceed to their destination after negotiations.
The Centre has so far provided 23 companies of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) to the Bihar Government to curb naxal activities. The force is deployed in different naxal-affected districts. "There is need to make effective use of the central para-military force in anti-naxal operations," Neelmani said, adding that 10 more units of the special task force is being created for the purpose.
The district police personnel have also been imparted training in jungle warfare and disaster management. A senior police officer, who oversees anti-naxal operation, said a detailed strategy had been chalked out after consultations with the officials of the ECR and ER Railways to check incidents of attack on trains and railway tracks by the Maoists.
The state police headquarters has also decided to strengthen dog squad units. The administration has proposed setting up dog squad units in worst naxal-affected regions, which would help police in detecting landmines and explosives besides operations against naxals.
What is worrying is that the state doesn't have any quick response team to rescue the passengers if any incident of train hijacking is reported. "Since law and order is the state subject, the Railways have to depend on the State Police to deal with any such exigency. Undoubtedly, the RPF and the RPSF extend their support to the state administration under such a situation," said Dilip Kumar, Chief Public Relation Officer (CPRO) of the East Central Railway.
Sources said that five battalions of the Railway Protection Security Force (RPSF) have been drafted to escort long distance trains passing through the five railway divisions. "Our main concern is protection of the Railway property," the CPRO said, adding that the RPF and the RPSF personnel were not trained in dealing with extremism.
Police officials observed that the Maoists have succeeded in carrying out attacks on trains and causing damage to railway tracks as the railway lines pass through dense forests and hilly terrains, normally considered inaccessible for the police. "The extremists have adopted hit and run policy as a vast track of railway lines pass through forests and hilly terrains, where they have a sizeable influence," said another police officer associated with anti-naxal operation.
He, however, admitted that the GRP was ill equipped to deal with an incident of train hijacking in the state. "The GRP not only lacks infrastructure such as anti-landmine vehicles, bullet proof jackets and night vision devices but also specialised training," the officer said. Moreover, the officers have been asked not to move out in naxal-affected areas at night apprehending landmine explosions.
As the state's 714 km border with Nepal is porous and the Maoists operating in that country have easy access to Indian Territory, the government has alerted the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) personnel to intensify patrolling on the international border. "Close circuit cameras are being installed at important border outposts to keep a vigil on illegal activities on the Indo-Nepal Border," a senior SSB official said.
The state administration has also decided to strengthen its intelligence network to strike at the core of the extremists. The SSB official said: "The first priority of these units would be to create human assets or a network of local informers and give them protection. We can't produce results immediately. It is a time-taking exercise but we'll succeed."